MUNSTER, Ind. (AP) _ More than two dozen companies with operations in Indiana have formed a consortium and are preparing to argue for changes in the way the state regulates utility rates.
Members comprising the Indiana Industrial Energy Consumers Inc. are making the effort to try to restore the state’s economic competitiveness, the consortium said. The state’s electric rates have gone from being the fifth lowest in the nation in 2003 to the 26th lowest in 2014, it said, citing data from the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
“We’ve lost that really nice economic competitiveness advantage we use to have,” said Jennifer Wheeler Terry, an Indianapolis-based energy sector lawyer and legislative liaison for Indiana Industrial Energy Consumers.
And neighboring states like Illinois and Ohio, which once had higher industrial electric rates than Indiana, now have lower average rates, she said. In recent years, Illinois and Ohio have instituted reforms that have controlled, and in some cases lowered, their electric rates.
“We feel like surrounding states are really engaged with their energy policy and Indiana could really benefit as well if we got in the game,” Terry said.
Companies included in the consortium include Alcoa, BP, Marathon Petroleum, Chrysler, Honda and Toyota, The (Munster) Times (http://bit.ly/1Fme6g3 ) reported.
Terry recently represented several northwest Indiana companies in a Court of Appeals case challenging bill surcharges for NIPSCO’s $1.2 billion electric modernization plan. A settlement has been proposed that would require the utility to file a rate case by the end of the year.
NIPSCO remains committed to competitive electric rates, which are important to both customers and the state, according to company spokesman Nick Meyer. Recent increases in electric rates have been caused by factors beyond utilities’ control, including environmental regulations, he pointed out.
Investor-owned utilities NIPSCO, Vectren, Indianapolis Power & Light, Duke and AEP dominate the state’s market for electricity.
Indiana Industrial Energy Consumers plans to begin lobbying a joint Indiana Senate/House committee this summer on energy matters to expand opportunities for co-generation plants producing both heat and electricity at their facilities, Terry said.
The consortium also is discussing the possibility of broader reforms to increase competition in the marketplace for both industrial and residential customers.